Title: Raven: Chronicles of Steele #1
Author: Pauline Creeden
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Hosted by: Lady Amber's Tours
This is the complete Steampunk Fantasy novel - all four parts of the serial in one volume!
Human life has value.
The poor living in the gutter are as valuable as the rich living in a manor.
The scoundrel is no less valuable than the saint.
Because of this, every life a reaper takes must be redeemed.
Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in
At that same moment, her horse stumbled to its knees. With her eyes squeezed shut, Raven hugged Darius to her chest and spun herself in order to land on her backside instead of on the boy. Her elbows skidded across the dirt, burning in response.
When her momentum came to an end, she set the boy to the side and leapt to her feet. The chestnut horse scrambled to stand, but refused to put weight on its left foreleg. In the limited glow of the half moon, Raven found the dip in the road that caused the stumble. A rustle in the undergrowth drew her attention, but she didn’t look directly at it. The noise came from the tree line opposite the dog, and she knew if she looked, the attack would begin. Young Baron Darius stammered, “Miss Steele?”
She made eye contact with the boy and put a finger to her lips. From her periphery, she counted the shadows of three men. Feigning care for the horse, she rushed toward it. “Big Red, are you all right?”
Raven leaned toward the horse’s leg and rested a hand on its shoulder. She turned her body to draw closer to the saddle bag. The crossbow’s wood and brass handle protruded, but the quiver was on the other side. She gritted her teeth. She only had one arrow. One shot. She’d need to make it a good one.
“Oh no, what are we going to do? This doesn’t look good.” She said it in a lilting, sing-song voice to hide the unsnapping of her knife’s sheath. Two weapons. She’d always been good at throwing. Another rustle in the woods came, closer this time. Her night vision goggles would limit her peripherally, but enhance the rest. She pulled the goggles over her eyes.
Raven counted out a rhythm in her mind. Four seconds, four beats measured, in a dancing step. She separated her stance to ready herself and jerked up, yanking the crossbow from the saddlebag.
One. She aimed at the first of the three shadows. He broke from the woods with rope in his hands and headed for the boy. She hit him precisely where she aimed, in the meat of the flesh above his kneecap. He fell down screaming. In time with the rhythm, she snapped the now useless bow to the magnets on her back.
Two. She grabbed the knife from its sheath on her thigh and tossed it in the air to catch it again by the blade. The other two men headed for her, the first one had a gun in his right hand. With a flick of her wrist, she threw it into that shoulder just below the collarbone causing him to drop the weapon. He stumbled backward with a curse.
Three. She ran for the last man who stopped, stunned, and looked at the first one. He turned toward her just as she’d reached the man with the knife in his shoulder and kicked the gun into the woods. She wrenched the knife out and he wailed, but she silenced him with a knee to the groin as she tossed the knife up again.
Four. Blood on the blade made her fingers slide down a quarter inch before she tightened her grip and brought her hand over the shoulder. The third man screamed before she threw it, but she was too busy counting to acknowledge it. The throw buried the knife into his thigh.
One, two, three, four.
She kept the cadence in her head. Her adrenaline heightened her senses, and her heart beat in time. The count continued as she surveyed the men. At the slightest provocation she needed to be ready to dance again. The first man began dragging himself back toward the woods. Raven strode over to him, counting her steps in the tempo.
He raised his hands up in a plea as she approached. “Please don’t kill me.”
“If I’d wanted you dead it would have already happened. All three of you.”
In simple language, Pauline Creeden creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long. Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy.
Armored Hearts, her joint effort with author Melissa Turner Lee, has been awarded the Crowned Heart for Excellence by InDtale Magazine. It is also the 2013 Book Junkie's Choice Winner in Historical Fiction. Her debut novel, Sanctuary, won 1st Place Christian YA Title 2013 Dante Rosetti Award and 2014 Gold Award for Best YA Horror Novel.